All Aboard suit will continue in federal court

A lawsuit challenging federal transportation officials’ decision to allow All Aboard Florida to sell $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds to help pay for its Brightline passenger train service will continue, a judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper denied motions to dismiss the case, saying the bonds are key to All Aboard Florida’s ability to complete the second phase of the rail line, which will run between West Palm Beach and Orlando on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.



Martin and Indian River counties filed federal lawsuits last year against the U.S. Department of Transportation, challenging whether All Aboard Florida is eligible for the private activity bonds. All Aboard Florida is an intervenor in the suit.

All Aboard Florida won preliminary approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation in December 2014 to issue the private activity bonds.

The company had planned to sell the bonds in 2015, but the tight municipal bond market forced the officials to shelve the sale.

All Aboard has received two extensions to sell the bond. The company has until Jan. 1 to complete the sale.

Martin and Indian River had sought an injunction to block the bond sale, saying, in part, that the money was not a linchpin to finishing the passenger rail line. Cooper denied the request for an injunction last year, saying the counties did not show that the rail project is dependent on the private activities bonds, or that their sale would influence the outcome of a federal environmental study examining the impact of the trains.

In his ruling Tuesday, Cooper said that after reviewing a “several-thousand-page evidentiary submission, including an expert declaration, as well as declarations from AAF officers” that the bonds were critical to the success off the project.

“Based on the present record, the Court finds that invalidating DOT’s decision to authorize $1.75 billion in PABs would significantly increase the likelihood that AAF would not complete Phase II of the project,” Tuesday’s ruling said.

All Aboard Florida has begun construction on the first phase of the project, which spans from Miami to West Palm Beach. Construction is underway at the company’s train stations in West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.




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